Ever Want to Smell What's on TV?
Have you ever gotten hungry just watching the cooking channel on cable? What if you could smell it too?
Our guest blogger, Emily Swan, graduated with highest honors from Butler University in Indianapolis. After school, she worked in public relations for Borders Group Inc, the book, music, and movie retailer. She's since jumped the PR fence and now works as a freelance writer. An avid science junkie, we hope you'll enjoy her quirky (and sometimes philosophical) takes on modern gadgets. Emily gives us a glimpse of what our future can be like while we're watching TV at home.
Here's Emily's article for AmericanInventorSpot.com:
At the beginning of the twentieth century, French writer, Marcel Proust, explored a theory that human senses are intricately entwined with memory. The idea that a particular taste, sound, or smell can involuntarily trigger a subconscious connection between two unassociated items continues to captivate innovators, entrepreneurs, and marketers. If you could smell warm apple pie every time a Gap commercial came on, would you relate homey recollections to their stores and, therefore, be more inclined to buy their clothing?
The day we find out isn't far off. Smell-o-vision was first publicly discussed after a 1940s Warner Brothers movie mentioned the possibility of combining smell with television, and in the 1960s a few movies were aired with various scents released in theatres to enhance the experience. Obviously, it didn't catch on. Yet, here we are, some decades later, and the itch just won't go away. With new technology and increased marketing savvy, Smell-o-vision may have some staying power.
Professor Takamichi Nakamoto of the Tokyo Institute of Technology is the inventor of the Odor Recorder. The machine processes everyday smells and reduces them to formulas. It can then reproduce the original scent from a concoction of chemicals on demand. For instance, if a lemon is put on the machine, the machine decodes the distinctive odor and retains the aroma recipe. When Professor Nakamoto requests a lemon smell from the recorder, the machine mixes the appropriate chemicals and reproduces the odor. The machine has the potential to imitate any smell known to humankind, though it's presently limited to a handful of perfected scents.
According to the BBC article, Professor Nakamoto's team synchronized a scene from the animated film "Spirited Away" with scents from the Odor Recorder. Initial studies show audience members recalled the accented scene more vividly than other parts of the movie. I picture light bulbs exploding over the heads of both movie producers and marketing executives when they ponder the potential. (To find out more about the odor recorder, go to the Tokyo Institute of Technology's web site.)
Experimental Setup for Odor Recorder
So can a Japanese company called NTT Communications. They recently marketed a small device like the Odor Recorder that concocts smells in conjunction with a national radio program in Japan. Listeners buy the gadget, download scent recipes from the radio program's web site, and then use the device while they listen to the radio. The scents are designed to compliment the music selection and enhance the experience. The radio program initiative opens up the possibility of selling similar gadgets to television owners. You could smell the ocean while you watch "Lost", or the caramelizing onions on Rachel Ray's "30 Minute Meals". Even more lucrative for big telecom companies, advertisers could pair aromas with key product placements in movies and TV shows. You could potentially smell a particular cologne as you watch George Clooney in a new movie, or you could sniff Starbuck's coffee as a star sips it in a TV show. (Click here to see the press release.)
I'm not sure Proust envisioned such advertising gluttony when he explored the corners of human memory. And while a piece of me recoils at the thought of an increased marketing onslaught, another piece of me thinks stimulating an extra sense while watching a movie could heighten the artistic experience. Plus, once we get the extra-sensual olfactory additives down to a science, it's just one more step to Wonka Vision. Who wouldn't want to grab a chocolate bar from their TV screen?